18 Sep 2023 10:46 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday (September 18) expressed disapproval of the delay by the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in deciding the disqualification petitions arising out of the rift within the Shiv Sena party between the Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde groups.The Court said that the Speaker cannot delay the proceedings under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution...
The Supreme Court on Monday (September 18) expressed disapproval of the delay by the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in deciding the disqualification petitions arising out of the rift within the Shiv Sena party between the Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde groups.
The Court said that the Speaker cannot delay the proceedings under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution indefinitely and that there has to be a sense of respect to the directions passed by the Court.
"Mr SG, he has to decide. He can't do this(delay the decision)", Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud told Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Speaker.
"What did the speaker do after the May 11 judgement by the court?", CJI asked, referring to the judgment delivered by the Constitution Bench this year in which the Speaker was directed to decide the disqualification petitions within a "reasonable period".
The bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra was considering a plea filed by the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) party MP Sunil Prabhu seeking direction to the Maharashtra Speaker to expeditiously decide on the disqualification pleas pending against rebel Sena MLAs led by Eknath Shinde.
The bench noted that a total of thirty four petitions filed by both sides against each other seeking the disqualification of fifty six MLAs are pending. The bench directed that the petitions be listed before the Speaker within a period of one week upon which the Speaker has to issue procedural directions for completing the record and setting out the time for hearings.
Proceedings have become a 'farce' : Uddhav Sena
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the after the May 11 judgment, several representations were sent to the Speaker. Since there was no action, the present writ petition was filed on July 4 and notice was issued on July 14. Sibal added that the Speaker did nothing even after that. When the petition was shown for listing on September 18, the Speaker listed the matter on September 14, on which date, he said that the the petitioners have not filed annexures. Sibal said that the Speaker then adjourned the matter to be heard in "due course" without giving any specific date. He further said that the Shinde group MLAs have filed replies running into hundreds of pages. Terming the entire process a "farce", Sibal urged the Supreme Court to issue specific directions to the Speaker. He said that the Speaker, while deciding a matter under the tenth schedule of the Constitution, acts as a Tribunal, and the Supreme Court can issue a mandamus to a Tribunal. He also referred to the judgment authored by Justice RF Nariman which set a three months timeline for the Speaker to decide a matter under the tenth schedule.
'Nothing has happened before the Speaker': CJI
SG Tushar Mehta objected to Sibal's submissions by saying that he was "ridiculing" a Constitutional authority.
"Let's not forget one thing- Speaker is a constitutional functionary...we cannot ridicule him in front of other constitutional body. We may not like him but that's not how we deal with this", SG said.
However, CJI pointed out, "It appears that nothing has happened". "You can't say that I'll hear it in due course. You have to keep giving dates", CJI added. SG then asked can a Speaker submit the details of his day-to-day functioning to the Court. In response, the CJI said, "He's a tribunal under the tenth schedule. As a tribunal he's amenable under this court's jurisdiction...the Speaker has to abide by the dignity of the Supreme Court. 11th May- months have passed and only notice has been issued".
Senior Advocates Neeraj Kishan Kaul and Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the Shinde side, blamed the Uddhav group for the delay as they failed to file the documents in time. Sibal stated that as per the Rules of the Procedure, it is for the Speaker to supply the annexures. He contended that the Shinde side never took an objection in their replies that the annexures were never supplied.
Ultimately, the bench adjourned the matter by two weeks, seeking a definite timeline for the conclusion of the proceedings.
"We will list it after two weeks. Tell us how the matter is progressing. This matter cannot go on indefinitely", CJI said,
In the order which was dictated after the hearing, the bench observed :
"The order of this Court required the Speaker to decide the disqualification petitions within a reasonable period. While this court is cognizant to the need of comity with the Speaker, we also expect dignity of this court's judgement to be maintained. We direct that speaker shall hear the matter no later than a period of one week.
At the time, procedural directions shall be issued for completing the record and setting out time for hearings. Soft copies of annexures shall be served on all respondents"
The petition filed by Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Suni Prabhu sought expeditious decision by the Maharashtra Assembly Speaker on the disqualification proceedings pending against Eknath Shinde concerns the directions of the Constitution Bench in its judgement. In the constitution bench judgement of May 11, 2023 in the matter pertaining to the Shiv Sena rift, the Supreme Court had held that it could not order the restoration of the Uddhav Thackeray government as Thackeray had resigned without facing floor test. Further, the Supreme Court had refused to use its powers under Article 226 and Article 32 in the matter to decide the disqualification issue. Accordingly, the court had handed over the decision of determining the disqualification petitions to the Speaker adding that the speaker “must decide the disqualification within reasonable period”.
Case Title: Sunil Prabhu v. Speaker, Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly WP (C) No. 685/23
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